The World Trade Organization and the Millennium Development Goals: The Role of Multilateral Trade Negotiations in Achieving Food Security for the World's Most Vulnerable Populations

By Bay, Benjamin J. | Georgetown Journal of International Law, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

The World Trade Organization and the Millennium Development Goals: The Role of Multilateral Trade Negotiations in Achieving Food Security for the World's Most Vulnerable Populations


Bay, Benjamin J., Georgetown Journal of International Law


  I. INTRODUCTION

 II. THE MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS AND FOOD SECURITY
   A. Defining Food Security
   B. The Global Economic Downturn and the MDG Targets

III. MIXING THE DEVELOPING AND DEVELOPED WORLD
   A. China
   B. India

 IV. PRIOR ACTION OF THE WTO AFFECTING FOOD SECURITY
   A. The WTO Agreement on Agriculture and the Uruguay Round
   B. Action Since the Uruguay Round
  V. THE DOHA ROUND AND CURRENT ISSUES ISSUES
   A. The Special Agricultural Safeguards
   B. The Special Safeguard Mechanism
   C. A New Twist: the Biofuels Issue

 VI. WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN IN THE DOHA ROUND
   A. Focus on Food Aid is Not Sustainable
   B. The SSM Solution

VII. A NEW FOOD CRISIS, OR A NEW CALL TO ARMS?

I. INTRODUCTION

Free trade in agricultural products offers both benefits and complications for developing countries. Lowered trade barriers and increased access to other markets give an opportunity to developing countries to modernize and grow their farming systems while stabilizing food prices to allow for greater food security. However, developing countries can be at risk of increasing poverty and starvation through a flooding of their markets with highly subsidized goods, including those from trade-altering food aid programs from the United States and the European Union, driving small and medium sized farmers out of business and increasing poverty and hunger. (1) This is particularly a threat in developing countries with a significant percentage of their workforce engaged in subsistence farming. These countries need a comprehensive development strategy to promote a sustainable model of development and avoid a potential trade free-for-all, which developing countries will inevitably lose.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the international organization created to "regulate international trade, reduce trade barriers, and ensure a level playing field for all its Members, big or small, rich or poor." (2) However, the WTO does not operate in a vacuum, and has emphasized that trade liberalization, the reduction or removal of both tariff and non-tariff restrictions on trade, "should be conducted with a view to raising standards of living." (3) To this end, while working directly to achieve Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 8, specifically "Target 8a: develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, nondiscriminatory trading and financial system," (4) the WTO is attempting to be mindful of how the MDGs are interconnected, and therefore how trade liberalization will have an effect on other MDGs. In fact, the WTO acknowledges the connection between its activities and the actions to achieve MDG 1, to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. (5) When looking at the position of MDG 8 vis-a-vis the other goals, MDG 8 was "born from the recognition that for poorer countries to achieve the other MDGs, it is important to create an international environment that facilitates their attainment by 2015." (6)

The WTO's activities (in partnership with the UN, World Bank, and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) affect the ability to meet the short-term goals of the 2015 MDGs, but, more importantly, they are vital to sustaining the gains made in developing countries in the long term beyond the MDG deadline. This paper will lay out the ways the Doha Agricultural Negotiations can be used to ensure that the legacy of the MDGs is sustained for years to come: by including the use of a special safeguard mechanism, and moving away from a food aid-centric view of food security by developed countries.

This paper will discuss the WTO's activities in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) related to food security, specifically focusing on whether Goal 8a (further develop an open and rule-based trading system) will hurt or help with MDGs related to food security: Goal 1 (Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger) and Goal 8b (Address the special needs of least developed countries). …

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